Sold in stores and online at around £35.00
INIS is an exceptional 2-4 Player Epic Tale Strategy Boardgame from Christian Martinez published by Matagot and by Pegasus Spiele. It is best played with 3 or 4 players aged 14+ hitting the 60 minute game time easier with three players, adding the fourth can also add about 15-20 minutes to play unless all players are experienced at regularly playing INIS. It is set within the myths, truths and legends of the ancient Irish Celts and the players are Tribal Clan Chieftains who all believe the Throne of Ard-Ri (the High King) is theirs. Accordingly they are cultivating the land (and the people), harvesting, constructing and spreading tales of heroism and offering the protection of Sanctuaries and Citadels. Everything about INIS shouts CLASS!
INIS is a large and heavy boxed game filled with many beautiful and unusual custom components. It is a man and resource management strategy game with land control and constructing buildings amongst the winning conditions. The land, or Territory, tiles are spectacularly shaped as jagged edged triangular pieces that interlock together to ensure that every game you have a different country to conquer.
Player's Clans are identified by colour, whereas buildings are neutral in beige or grey and usable by all players. The 12 figures of a player's Clan are created as four different sculptings with three of each figure type (Woodsmen, shepherds and traders) but despite the variants in figures they are all the same as far as the gameplay; this is aesthetical, they do not have powers or actions or different effects. The buildings are either Citadels (grey cities within walls) or Sanctuaries (beige farmsteads) and are constructed with no limit to the number that can be placed into the territories; one Citadel is larger than all the others and is the Capital which is placed at the beginning of the game along with a Sanctuary; it is placed by the player with the Brenn marker (temporary leader/Start Player) onto one of the Territory tiles - the stack of Territory tiles is shuffled and the game begins with a number of them face up and interlocked equal to the number of players. There are various other tiles and each has its own function; one of these, the Flock of Crows, is a round tile that is flipped at the beginning of the Assembly Phase and resolves whether the turn order is clockwise or anti-clockwise.
INIS is played in Rounds that each have two Phases: Assembly Phase and Season Phase, and it continues with checks for a Winner on the second (of the six) order of the Assembly Phase. There are three victory conditions and the winner of the game can have completed one or more of them but they must also have a Pretender Token which are gained during the Season Phase - all players with Pretender Tokens check to see if they have any of the Victory conditions, if more than one does it is the player who meets more of the three who wins.
The plastic miniatures are actually very well detailed so if you are handy with a thin brush and acrylic paint you can turn them from being nice and useful into being totally amazing game pieces.
There are three specific type of playing card in INIS, Action (Green), Advantage (Gold) and Epic Tale (Ochre) and each has a "Timing icon" in the top left corner, either the "butterfly looking" Season which naturally enough are playable in the Season Phase, or the triple-swirled Triskel which have specific timing playability. The cards are rather larger than regular playing cards and contain superb illustrations by Jim Fitzpatrick and Dimitri Bielak. The cards are language specific so if, like me, you have the German edition you need to visit Boardgamegeek.com for the four A4 pages of card descriptions. There isn't too much text on each card but there are just under 70 cards so we added a few extra minutes to our prospective game time to allow players to understand their cards; in fact after our first game I printed three more copies of the card descriptions so that each player had their own - I had already printed one copy - and that helped the game along a lot. Also available on Boardgamegeek.com is a 4 page Errata and FAQ file which is a very useful amalgem of designer Christian Martinez's confirmed amendments and at least one BGG user's questions.
The game play basically revolves around the players use of the 17 Action card deck. These are shuffled each Season during the Assembly Phase, and four dealt to every player, one is put aside to be used in the next shuffle and deal, it is out of the game for this Round (so in a three-player game only draw 13 of the 17 cards). When all players have their four cards they are distributed amongst the players again, first keeping one and passing three, then keeping two and passing two and finally keeping three and passing one which thus leaving all players with four cards to play the Round.
When the Territory tile with Tir Na Nog is in play the conditions of its effect are as follows (note: you will already know this if you have an English edition): "If the direction of play changes in the Assembly Phase then each player with at least one Clan in the Territory must remove 1 Clan and takeone Epic/Hero card.
There is combat over territories but it is resolved in an almost gentle way and instead of calling them "invasions" or "battles" they are named as "clashes" because they are concluded through numbers of units (figures) and cards. At the beginning of a clash the Citadels offer clans the opportunity to preserve one of their units (figures) by placing it into safety. Of course it is no longer involved in the conflict (sorry I mean "clash") but it does mean that the losing clan still has some influence in the Territory. This is a most useful and clever way of keeping everyone involved throughout the play and not wiping Clans out (although there is a mechanism to bring players back into the game if they do hit rock bottom).
Clashes end when all players agree that the combat should stop or if there are no longer any exposed (free) clan figures in the territory. If the Territory has exposed clans still in it, the territory the owner(s) can decide whether to continue the clash or to end it, in which case they can perform a maneuver - it is at this point a Withdrawal to an adjacent Territory is often a good choice. Winning a Territory makes that player a Chieftain there.
Because there aren't a large number of options open to players each Round the game play speed depends on the players strategies and whether they have pre-thought their Turn while the other players are having theirs. Of course the opponent's actions may change your own but that's the same in any turn based game, though other than this and clashes there isn't a lot of player-inter-action. This doesn't detract from the game as INIS is an enjoyable and easy game to play, with somewhat repetitive actions each Round the results of which depend on the way they are approached by the players.
The three Victory conditions are: Being Chieftain in six or more Territories where other player's clan members live; Having a presence in Territories where there are six or more Sanctuaries; Being present in six or more Territories (just being in the Territory you do not have to be Chieftain in all six, or indeed any of them). Deed Tokens, gained by using the Master Craftsman and/or Bard cards, can be used as a Wild (adds 1 of any thing) towards meeting any of the victory conditions. This may seem an unusual thing to say but although INIS is a wargame it's a "nice" wargame.